U.S. Relations with Tuvalu

Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Fact Sheet
December 22, 2016

More information about Tuvalu is available on the Tuvalu Country Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.


During World War II, several thousand U.S. troops were stationed in Tuvalu (then known as the Ellice Islands). Beginning in 1942, U.S. forces built airbases on the islands of Funafuti, Nanumea, and Nukufetau. The airstrip in the capital of Funafuti, originally built by the U.S. during the war, is still in use, as is the "American Passage" that was blasted through Nanumea's reef by SeaBees assisted by local divers. Tuvalu became fully independent from the United Kingdom in 1978, and in 1979 it signed a treaty of friendship with the United States, which recognized Tuvalu's possession of four islets formerly claimed by the United States. The two countries have worked as partners on regional and global issues promoting peace and strengthening democracy and security. The partnership looks to curb the effects of climate change, reinforce maritime security, and bolster the countries' economic development programs.

U.S. Assistance to Tuvalu

The United States funded a rainwater catchment system project on Funafuti atoll, the capital of Tuvalu. This increased the capital’s rainwater storage capacity by 24,000 liters and also included technology that improved water quality by preventing contaminated water from entering the storage tanks. The United States is also a major financial contributor to international and regional organizations that assist Tuvalu, including the Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank, UN Children's Fund, World Health Organization, and UN Fund for Population Activities. The United States also has a ship-rider agreement under the under Oceania Maritime Security Initiative (OMSI) with Tuvalu to provide security and support ship-rider missions which allow Tuvaluan law enforcement officials to ride aboard U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels. The United States also contributes U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy air assets to regional Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) operations that help Tuvalu protect earnings from fishing licenses in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Bilateral Economic Relations

The United States has no significant trade or investment with Tuvalu. Tuvalu is a party to the U.S.-Pacific Islands Multilateral Tuna Fisheries Treaty, which provides access to U.S. fishing vessels in exchange for a license fee from the U.S. industry. Under a separate Economic Assistance Agreement associated with the Treaty, the United States government currently provides $21 million per year to Pacific Island parties.

Tuvalu's Membership in International Organizations

Tuvalu and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank.

Bilateral Representation

The U.S. Ambassador to Tuvalu is Judith B. Cefkin, resident in Fiji; other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department's Key Officers List.

Tuvalu has no embassy in Washington, DC, but has a permanent representative to the United Nations in New York who is also accredited as ambassador to the United States.

More information about Tuvalu is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

Department of State Tuvalu Country Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Tuvalu Page
USAID Tuvalu Page
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics